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Air Beds Buying Guide

Air beds or air mattresses are a great way to bring some of the comforts of home with you on a camping trip.


Sleeping on the ground isn’t for everyone. Air beds help you achieve the feel of a real bed quickly & inexpensively in almost any location. Either as camping equipment or as a guest bed at home, air beds should be easy to use and easy to store away. Learn what type is best for your needs.


How to Choose

Types of Air Beds

Inflatable Air Beds

Air mattresses that you blow up yourself have been around for years. They are one of the most inexpensive ways to have a comfortable place to sleep on your trip. Using your lungs to blow up an entire mattress can be exhausting. After a day of hiking, inflating your mattress yourself might not seem worth the savings. Many air beds that are on the market now come complete with an attached electric pump, making the inflation process much easier.

Raised Air Beds

Using a collapsible frame to raise your air bed off the ground makes getting in and out of bed less straining. It also keeps those creepy crawlers away while you sleep. Some models come with a frame attached or you can buy a frame by itself. The frames should fold up easily and be compact and portable.

Truck Air Beds

These air beds are specially designed to fit on the bed of a pick-up truck, or even in the back of vans or SUVs. They can be used with a truck tent or without.

Sleeping Pads

A sleeping pad is narrower than the typical inflatable air bed. These pads are made from foam and create a thermal layer beneath a sleeping bag to keep you warm and also make your sleeping surface more comfortable. Your pad can be rolled up for easy transport. Some more expensive pads are made with open cell self-inflating foam for extra comfort. Sleeping pads are commonly used by experienced outdoors enthusiasts.

Things to Consider

Indoors or Outdoors

Will you be using your air bed while camping or as a guest bed at home? Air beds make a great inexpensive, space-saving option for overnight guests. When using your air bed outdoors, you may wish to look for one with more rugged, durable construction to avoid punctures. Also, make sure the packaging does not say ‘indoor use only’.


Air beds come in twin, double and queen sizes. Measure your tent to determine what size air bed will fit comfortably inside. Also consider how many people will be using your airbed. Remember, kids may end up getting into bed with mom and dad because of unfamiliar surroundings or noises.


What method you are using to get to you campsite? Smaller air beds with fewer parts will be easier to transport while hiking. If space is limited, the higher end air beds with pumps and frames might not be an option.


Storing your air bed at home should require very little space in your closet or garage. After your camping trip, let your air bed fully dry before storing it to prevent mildew from forming.



Some air beds come with pumps attached or sold separately. There are two main types of pumps, manual and electric. Manual requires you to use your hand or foot to operate the inflating mechanism. You can purchase both battery operated or corded electric pumps, which should be able to inflate your air bed in about 2 minutes. Make sure you know if you will have access to an electrical outlet at your campsite, otherwise a battery operated version is probably the safest bet. Electric pumps should be able to deflate your mattress as well for fast and easy packing.


Air beds are typically made from PVC, nylon or rubber. Both PVC and rubber have elastic prosperities, so beds made with these materials are long-lasting and less likely to leak. Look for a mattress with a comfortable layer of foam over the sleeping surface. More expensive air beds can even come with a memory foam layer.